Former Southeast baseball players sign with Gateway Grizzlies
Former Southeast Missouri State University baseball outfielder, Dan Holst, and catcher, Brian Lees, have signed a contract with the Gateway Grizzlies.
Both Holst and Lees were eligible for the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but after not being drafted or signed as free agents, they decided to keep their baseball dreams alive by signing with the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies are an independent professional baseball team right outside of St. Louis. The team hosts tryouts three times a year: before the season starts, during the first half of the season and again in the second half of the season. Their goal is to develop players they sign in the hope they will someday be signed by an MLB team.
After the MLB Draft, neither Holst nor Lees were sure what they were going to do. After talking to Southeast’s head coach Andy Sawyer and hitting coach Craig Ringe, they decided to try out for the Grizzlies.
“I knew that I really wanted to play baseball still,” Holst said. “They told me I should wait a couple of days to see if I could sign as a free agent and if that doesn’t work out I should try to play [independent] ball.”
Holst and Lees both had dreams of being drafted and they weren’t ready to give up playing baseball just yet.
“I wanted to take every opportunity I could and see where it would take me,” Lees said.
Holst hit .375 with the Redhawks while also hitting 10 home runs and having 55 runs batted in. Grizzlies head coach Phil Warren said he sees Holst hitting in the middle of the order for the team.
“I think he can be a much better player than he realizes,” Warren said. “He’s just a solid player but I think he has a lot of room to grow.”
Lees batted .326 with the Redhawks in 53 games while hitting 4 home runs and having 37 runs batted in. He is also successful in the catcher’s position.
“Brian was hands down above the rest of the catching pool that was with us.” Warren said. He added that even though he is learning a new pitching staff, he still has the chance of being an elite catcher.
Lees said to get to the next level he needs to get used to the speed of the game since there is a different level of play between college baseball and professional baseball.
“Catching will be my No. 1 priority and then hitting after that,” Lees says. “So I need to continue to keep my game sharp.”
Holst said with so many games on the schedule, it gives him the chance to become a better player. “Along with the coaches, we’re surrounded by players that have been through affiliated ball in the minor leagues,” Holst said. He added that to get to the next level he needs to get better in just about every aspect.
The Grizzlies have had 52 players signed by MLB teams since 2001.
So far Lees has played in eight games batting .333 and having 1 home run and 4 runs batted in. Holst, on the other hand, has been off to a slow start, batting .167 while playing in 13 games.